Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Avoiding a January Debt Hangover
With Black Friday behind us, we have launched the official kickoff into the Christmas shopping season. Debt distributors rejoice as people will now begin to overextend themselves all to gain an evening of smiles between political arguments at the Christmas family gathering. While I believe I have made my views on Christmas well known, I have yet to affect mass change in our society. One day…One day. For now, I will try my best to help you all navigate through the financial mazes you will soon encounter. One such maze is the January debt hangover that is looming in the distance. As those credit card bills start to roll in, the smiles will soon be forgotten. Today, I will give you my 10 tips on avoiding a January debt hangover as Christmas shopping season begins. Feel free to spike the eggnog while taking notes.
1) Evaluate the need
I have a fairly large family. I have my mom and dad and my brother. I also have 3 uncles and 3 aunts as well as my amazing Grandma. Add to that about 10 cousins and we are starting to get a little out of hand. In my Christmas gift giving the only ones who get gifts are mom and dad. Grandma gets flowers because she has everything she needs. Bro gets nothing because he is a grown man. The rest of the family gets me as a gift, priceless value right there. Are any of them mad? Nope. In fact, they are quite happy. There comes a point when it is all just excess and grown-ups can get their own stuff. Does this make me cheap? Nope. I spend quite a lot on those that I do buy for. The point is simple, evaluate who should get gifts and who shouldn’t. Also, take it easy on the children, they often like the box the toy came in more than the toy.
2) Give the gift of time
I am a very busy guy, so I find the most valuable thing I can give the people I love is my time. Let’s put it this way, If I want to spend time with you, you are pretty damn special. With the lives we all have these days, just being there for the ones you love is huge. Work is demanding, kids are demanding. Life is just very demanding. Arriving with a smile on your face is often enough. Also, bringing a bottle of wine doesn’t hurt either.
3) Avoid the malls
Amazing Christmas deals!!! Wrong. Prices get jacked this time of year because they know love is in the air. I avoid the malls like the plague during the Christmas season. I would honestly rather stand in line at the DMV then be in a mall. It is almost impossible to go into a mall during the Christmas season and not overspend. I have a gift idea that everyone loves. CASH! It may be old fashion, but it does the trick. You can’t get the wrong thing and you can’t mess it up. Giving cash also allows you to properly estimate what everyone gets. I have never gotten a bad reaction when getting or giving cash. #truth
4) Get craftsy, or bake-sy, or booze-sy
Don’t want to blow up the bank account this year? How about you put your creative side to the test. You can spend peanuts on making a special decorative picture frame and put a pic of you and family in it. Boom, there’s a great gift. How about you put your baking skills to the test and prepare a nice treat or dish for the ones you love. You can also drink while you do it! Double win! Speaking of drinking, how about making a special Christmas punch or sangria that everyone will enjoy! I will tell you right now, the person who brings the special sangria will always be remembered. The crappy gift will probably be in the garbage by April.
5) Screw the kids
I mean I love kids. Here is the thing. While we all love kids, especially our own kids, they really are not that important. Okay, let me rephrase that. They really are not worth getting your bank account blown up at Christmas time. I barely remember my childhood, let alone all the gifts people got for me. I think back at those times and feel extremely bad about the burdens people put on themselves just to give a selfish kid a gift. I look back and remember the gatherings, fun activities, and funny moments more than anything. Your children, and other people’s children especially, don’t need to be spoiled at Christmas. In fact, you may be harming them more than helping them. Get each child a small gift and make the holidays about fun activities and time together. Your love is what matters, seriously.
6) Work more
Here is a sure-fire way to spend less money at Christmas. Work more hours! Everyone is taking time off and you can cash in on that. Plug in a bit of overtime. It accomplishes 2 things for you. It gives you some extra money around a time of year where you might need it most. It also gives you less time to spend money because you are at work. This doesn’t sound fun at all, I know. Being an adult isn’t always fun, sometimes you have to be pragmatic too.
7) Avoid expensive outings
You know what kills you more than the gifts, all the fancy cocktail parties, and dinners. Seems like every few days there is a “must attend” work outing and friends booze fest. While it can be a fun time of year because of the social aspect, it can also be very expensive. Pick and choose your spots when it comes to these outings. You have no obligation to blow a ton of money at social gatherings. Again, your presence should be enough of a gift.
8) Focus on one charity
This time of year, the heartstrings get tugged. John Lennon beats your feelings down with “So this is Christmas,” about 8 times a day. As we gobble down turkey and ham our email and phone gets blown up with requests from charities and local initiatives. While I commend and applaud giving this time of year, focus on one or a couple causes that mean a lot to you. I believe all of us that are blessed enough to live in comfort have an obligation to give back, but we are not made of money. Often, giving your time is even more valuable, so roll up those sleeves and get to the local soup kitchen to help. It will also show your children how lucky they really are.
9) Put the cards away
Cash is king, especially at this time of year. Make a Christmas budget and stick to it. How you know you are sticking to it is by using cash to fund your purchases. Put away the credit cards and lines of credit. This will help you avoid that nasty January hangover. While blowing all your cash on gifts isn’t great, at least it is YOUR cash. VISA is rich enough, don’t make them richer.
10) Festivus for the rest of us?
I hope I don’t lose you on this one, but if it were up to me Christmas wouldn’t be celebrated at all. I would be quite content with jumping right to an amazing New Year’s Eve bash for family and friends. The only reason I partake in Christmas events is that the people I love, and that love me, want me to be around for them. I never tell them my theories on Christmas, because it is their fun time and I am not a Scrooge. Maybe, just not participating in Christmas is right up your alley? What’s the worst that can happen. You can’t get fired over it. Your family will still be your family. Maybe just taking a break from the whole season is exactly what the doctor ordered. I doubt many will subscribe to this idea, but if it ever catches on, you know who to blame.
We work so hard to get by and try to get ahead. The last thing we need is a once a year event to flush our progress down the tube. Take this time of year to evaluate your budget and make sure you are still on track for your goals. One of those goals should be to enjoy the new year instead of playing debt catchup for a few months. Ho Ho Ho!
“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.” – Dr. Seuss
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